Leveling in a single-player game, done correctly, is self-referencing. If you're at "level 40," you should objectively be bigger/better/faster/stronger (R.I.P. Daft Punk) than you were at "level 39," and the gameplay should reflect that with increased challenges and abilities as you progress.This less a hot take but more a feeling that my become a hot take, I dunno...
But I was skimming Polygons' review of Jusant and this phrase hit me hard when it was talking about the game's focus and simplicity:
" There’s no leveling here, no endgame, no customization, no meta goals to tick off."
I already bought the game because when it was advertised I already was interested and the reviews have been positive but specifically I'm do down for this whole minimalism thing.
Maybe here is hot take: why do I need "leveling" in a single player game? I mean... to be the level of non-human things? Just make the things good things to fight, or whatever. Or if not fighting, wtf I need numbers and stars for? At least for the type of games I play.
I'm loving Spiderman 2 but when it tells me I reached level 40 I'm like... so? Level 40 compared to what, I'm the only person playing this game.
I know I had a post a while back expressing reservations about this being one of the greatest years for gaming but if Cocoon and Jusant prove to sort of set a new standard for minimalistic, focused gaming experience, then I'll add my chorus to the praise.
That said, I'll piggy back on your gripe that I dislike games, single-player or otherwise, that don't make leveling from one arbitrary increment to the next satisfying. "Oooh, I busted my balls for an hour to go from level 39 to level 40 for a whole +2% to my defense? " I prefer games that reward your leveling up with something that make an immediate difference to the gameplay, i.e.: new weapons or abilities that affect gameplay noticeably.